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Person with luggage heading to departure lounge at the airport Person with luggage heading to departure lounge at the airport

How to get through the airport hassle-free

Travel like a pro with our top airport tips and fast track through the airport hassle-free.

From pre-departure planning and getting through security with ease to the moment you settle into your seat, we've put together our insider travel tips for a smooth journey through the airport. Whether you're a frequent flyer or it's your first time up in the air, these airport tips will help you travel better.

As soon as you book your flights...

1. Are your travel documents in order?

Start by checking you have your travel documents in order. Make sure you have enough time left on your passport to travel (many countries require six months), and check any visa requirements for British citizens. Some destinations also require a certain number of blank pages in your passport, so if yours doesn't meet the regulations allow enough time (up to six weeks) to get a new one.

2. Do you have any special requirements?

If you're travelling with children or have mobility needs, request the seats you need when you book tickets. Travellers with accessibility requirements have priority on front-of-section seats. You'll also have a chance to choose seats when checking-in online, so make a note in your diary of when check-in opens to get the best selection.

3. Should you pre-book fast-track security?

Want to speed through the airport in the blink of an eye? Pre-booking fast-track security will allow you to dodge the queues with your own dedicated security lane. Then, jump the boarding queue with priority boarding.

4. Should you book an airport lounge and hotel?

If you want to get your holiday off to a luxurious start, booking an airport lounge will secure you comfortable seating with snacks, drinks and wifi. Some lounges offer relaxing spa and beauty treatments and many have special access to the departure gates so you can skip the queues.

And booking a lounge often pays for itself – when you add up all the costs of waiting around in the airport for your flight, you're actually better off paying for a lounge instead.

For an even more relaxing start to your journey, book a night in an airport hotel before you travel. They're great for avoiding early starts and transport snags.

5. What about parking?

If you're driving to the airport, sort out your airport parking as soon as you book for the best deals. Most Holiday Extras customers save £125 by booking their airport parking in advance. And with Holiday Extras, you can book your parking with an airport hotel in a simple, hassle-free package.

6. What seat should I choose on the plane?

Most airlines let you choose a seat for free 24 hours before take-off, but you can usually pay a little extra to beat the crowds and pick your perfect seat earlier. We've got a whole article to help pick the perfect seat for you.

A few days before you go to the airport...

Runway view at the Sofitel, Gatwick

7. Should you sign up for text alerts?

Sign up for text alerts to keep you informed of any problems with your flight or potential delays to your travel to and from the airport. Keep up to date with driving news, and your local train operator for rail updates.

8. Should you check your baggage allowance before flying?

Check your baggage allowance and pack accordingly – don't forget to leave room for shopping and souvenirs! If you're only going for a short break, consider taking hand luggage only. It'll make life much easier and quicker at both ends of your journey.

And be careful not to pack prohibited items by mistake. Full-sized toiletries, bottles of drink and large scissors can all be confiscated from hand luggage, so put them in the hold or don't bring them at all. Check out our holiday checklist to make sure you've packed everything you need.

9. Where should you pack valuables when flying?

Pack valuables, medicines and other essentials in your hand luggage so they don't get separated from you if your hold baggage makes a detour. Pop a luggage tag with your name, home address and email address on your bags, and keep a list of your belongings (or even better, snap a photo on your phone) so you can easily make a claim if luggage gets lost.

10. Should you print out your boarding pass at home?

Print your boarding pass at home (or save a copy onto your phone if your flight allows electronic passes) and you'll be able to drop your bags without queuing at check-in.

At the airport

Champagne at No1 Lounge, Heathrow

11. How to get free upgrades on flights

Arrive early for the best chance to upgrade. Popular flights are often overbooked, and staff may offer early arrivals cabin rollover or an upgraded seat on the next flight. Don't wait until you get to the desk – listen out for staff offering upgrades and free flights in the queue, especially on busy routes.

12. Should you have your boarding pass to hand?

Have your passport and boarding pass easily to hand so you don't need to stop and find them at check-in, security and boarding (or when you buy a Toblerone at Duty Free). It's also good to have your boarding pass ready if staff come calling for passengers on your flight.

13. How to get through airport security fast

Speed through security by placing phones, coins and keys in a clear plastic bag. Wear light, easy-to-remove shoes and avoid heavy jewellery, studded belts and decorative zips that can set security scanners off. And don't make silly jokes about drugs or bombs when passing through security – staff have to investigate anything perceived to be a threat and you could be questioned or even arrested.

Most major UK airports offer fast-track through security, and if you book an airport lounge, the fast track pass is often included as an extra. Gatwick fast track, Liverpool fast track, Birmingham fast track, and Heathrow fast track all offer you an easy way to get through airport security quickly.

14. Should you make last minute checks in the airport?

If you stop for a coffee or relax in the lounge, make sure you turn around and check to see you haven't left any luggage or travel documents behind you when you leave. Be especially alert if you're flying in the small hours and feeling drowsy – this is the time when tickets easily get left in the Terminal 4 toilets.

15. Should you have some drinks before your flight?

It might seem like a fun idea to get your holiday off to a flying start with a margarita or two, but getting too tipsy pre-flight can mean you're not paying attention to important information like gate changes and boarding calls. A couple of pints can also become quite uncomfortable on the bladder once you've been sitting on the tarmac for 40 minutes, so it might be worth waiting until you're on the plane for your first tipple. Feel free to ignore this advice at your leisure.

16. When should you check for your gate?

Pay attention to the departures board for information about boarding, gate changes and delays – and give yourself plenty of time to get from the departure lounge to the gate. Running through the airport with your name being called over the tannoy is not a good look for anyone, and if you're very late, a flight crew on a tight schedule is very likely to take your luggage off and leave without you.

At departures

17. Are there toilets at the departure gate?

Not all departure gates have toilets, so pop to the bathroom on your way to the gate – you might not get another opportunity until you're in the air.

18. Should you plan for your arrival?

Once you're settled at the gate, use the free wifi to hop online and check out your destination – such as where to find the ATM, taxi rank and local buses. Remember you'll need to switch your devices to airplane mode once you board the plane.

19. When should you board your flight?

Keep an ear out for important announcements, and be sure to board when called – your seat may be given away to a standby passenger if you don't arrive by last call. Make yourself known to gate staff if you need assistance boarding.